A handful of 2008 books I’ve reviewed or recommended in 2008 that just might help you find a stimulating gift for the men in your life:

Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing
Edited by Patrick Moser
UH Press; 338 pages

In this ambitious anthology, Pacific Passages, Drury University professor Patrick Moser–who teaches a course on surfing history and culture–has gathered four centuries of writing about surfing, tracing its historical transformation from exotic amusement to destructive cultural aberration to today’s positive sport trend and possible career path. Look for Hawaiian legends and chants, travel narratives by Melville and London, contemporary observations by such authors as Tom Wolfe and Susan Orlean, and Moser’s insightful introductions.

The Global Game: Writers on Soccer
Edited by John Turnbull
Bison Books; 296 pages; $19.95

The world’s most popular sport has unsurprisingly inspired literature across the globe, more than 50 of which Global Game editor John Turnbull has collected in The Global Game: Writers on Soccer, an elegant window into the diverse ways soccer and human experience connect. Find poetry and prose from masters like Eduardo Galeano, Ted Hughes, Elvis Costello and Mario Vargas Llosa, and alight at once in Kosovo, Montana, Iran, Greenland and more. It’s a must-have for anyone who thinks himself a soccer fan.

Shining City: A Novel
By Seth Greenland
Bloomsbury; 307 pages

After losing his factory job to China, middle-aged everyman Marcus Ripps, the protagonist of Seth Greenland’s hilarious satirical novel “Shining City,” faces defaulting on his L.A. home and living a sexless marriage, until his estranged brother bequeaths him an eponymous dry cleaning business. But this solution is quickly soiled when he learns the only thing being laundered there is money earned by a suite of prostitutes. So, what to do but rationally consider the irrational—becoming a pimp? Read more about this hooked-from-the-first-page novel here.

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar
Houghton Mifflin; 496 pages

Thirty-three years ago, Paul Theroux undertook an ambitious 28,000-mile train journey across Asia and wrote about it in “The Great Railway Bazaar.” Then in 2006, he again embarked on the same journey to discover what had changed, recounting it in his new book “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar.” Though Theroux may feel older and act tamer, and the journey covers the same geography, the story is as fresh as a brand-new adventure. And because he is at home in the world and his words, reading “Ghost Train” makes you feel that way too. Read more about this adventurous tale here.

AK-47: The Weapon that Changed the Face of War
By Michael Hodges
MacAdam Cage; 210 pages

In AK-47: The Weapon that Changed the Face of War, London columnist and writer Michael Hodges tells the unlikely story of the AK47, created 60 years ago by General Kalashnikov. Central to modern conflicts from Africa to the Middle East and Europe to Latin America, this ubiquitous weapon has transformed international landscapes, modern terrorism, and influenced and appeared in popular culture, including t-shirts, vodka bottles, videos, songs. It has even made it to the White House, in the form of a crystal version given to W by Vladimir Putin. Though some of Hodges connections rest on slim platforms, the individual testimonies of people who have firsthand experience of the machine, and Hodges approachable prose will rest with you long after the cover is closed.

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